Batman #49 by Tom King, Mikel Janin, and June Chung features an epic fight between Catwoman and Joker. Only one will win, but who truly got the last laugh?
Written by: Tom King
Art by: Mikel Janin
Colors by: June Chung
Letters by: Clayton Cowles
“THE BEST MAN” part two! Now it’s up to Catwoman to rescue her one true love. It’s the Cat vs. the Clown in one exciting showdown that sets the stage for our giant anniversary issue—and the biggest union in comics!
“Someday we’ll look back and laugh” –Minor Threat–
If you thought the last issue was one hell of a fucking Joker story, then Batman #49 is the actual narrative punchline. What Tom King has done in this issue is tell, without a doubt, one of the best Catwoman/Joker confrontations you will ever read. And confrontation is right because what happens here is much more than a fight (although there is a fight, and it’s tense, violent and urgent). In between the kicks, punches, gunshots, and clawings, there is a deep philosophical discussion going on between Catwoman and Joker. These are two people who have shared an obsession with the same person all their lives, only to have vastly different relationships and perspectives with and on that person. They both claim to know and love him, and they both do. But Catwoman can see beyond Batman’s mask to something deeper. And maybe the Joker could too, but he chooses not to. He wants Batman to be nothing but his opposite, pure chaos and pure order. No room for anything else. It makes Joker, as terrifying as King has built him up to be, a tragic figure as well. It’s deep, nuanced writing that elevates all the characters.
King also makes these two iconic characters his own, yet still manages to homage and allude their vast histories. Fans of Allan Moore’s and Brian Bolland’s seminal work, The Killing Joke, will find much to love here as there are visual, thematic and dialog nods to it throughout the entire thing.
And SPOILER ALERT… with the Joker’s emotional revelations and final act of allowing himself to bleed out, it can almost function as a perfect end to the Clown Prince of Crime. Then we get Catwoman’s final reaction. Laughter. But she also sits holding him, scratching his hair. Honestly, it’s just perfect.
The art in this issue had to do two things, showcase a quick yet tense action scene, and then continue to carry that momentum with just a conversation between to people laying on the floor. Mikel Janin, along with June Chung, creates some dynamic, fluid and gorgeous panels and layouts. Every punch, every bullet is felt. It’s a highlight for this re-occurring art team in a run that has already produced classic images. Janin’s Joker is immediately iconic and worthy of being slapped on everything from art prints to t-shirts.
Attention must be given to the lettering as well. Clayton Cowles captures sound perfectly, and his talent for world ballon placement is obvious. He can place a lot of text around these beautiful images and it does not distract, it only enhances the story. And his font for the Joker’s words makes you feel like you can hear and feel the mixed emotions in his voice.
In many ways, it feels like whole King’s run as led up to this moment, this emotional explosion between two people all obsessed with the same thing and their place in each other’s lives. Batman #49 is an instant classic and is not to be missed.